Dealing with a letter saying bailiffs will visit

This advice applies to Wales. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland

If you haven’t paid a debt you might be sent a letter from bailiffs (also called  ‘enforcement agents’) saying they will visit your home to collect payment.

Don’t ignore the letter - this is called a ‘notice of enforcement’. If you do the bailiffs can visit your home after 7 days. As well as collecting payment for the debt they can charge you fees so you could end up owing more money.

There are things you can do to stop them coming if you act quickly.

Before you speak to bailiffs, check the extra rules they should follow if you: 

  • are disabled or seriously ill

  • are vulnerable because of covid

  • have mental health problems

  • have children or are pregnant

  • are under 18 or over 65

  • don’t speak or read English well

  • are in a stressful situation like recent bereavement or unemployment

You might be able to get more time to deal with the notice of enforcement.

Check if bailiffs can take property from your home 

If you let bailiffs into your home, they can take your property.

If you don't let them in, they can still:

  • take your things from a road - like your car

  • talk to you

  • collect money

  • give you documents

You don't have to let bailiffs into your home. They can't force their way in, but they can come in if you've left a door unlocked.

If bailiffs didn’t follow the rules, you can check how to complain about bailiffs.

If bailiffs say they're evicting you 

If you get a letter saying bailiffs are going to evict you, find out how to deal with eviction by bailiffs on Shelter’s website.

Check the notice of enforcement is valid

You should first make sure your notice of enforcement includes the right information. If it doesn't, you can complain to stop the bailiffs coming until a new notice is sent.

For your notice to be valid it must:

  • show your correct name and address

  • show what debt you owe and state the correct amount

  • explain that you have 7 days' notice before the bailiffs can visit 

  • come from a registered bailiff not a debt collector - you can check on the Bailiffs Register on the Justice website

  • be sent to you by letter - either by post, fax, email, by being fixed to your front door if you don't have a letterbox or by being given to you

  • be written in a certain legal style - see example of a notice of enforcement on GOV.UK

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re not sure if your notice is valid - an adviser can check the notice for you.

Work out what day the bailiffs will visit on

After sending you the notice of enforcement the bailiffs have to wait 7 full days before they can visit you. This doesn't include the day you get the notice, the day of the visit or Sundays and bank holidays.

For example, if you get your notice on Monday the bailiffs can't visit you until the Wednesday of the next week

If your notice of enforcement is from a debt collector

Your notice of enforcement won’t be valid if it’s come from a debt collector.  They don’t have the same powers as bailiffs - they can’t come to your home to collect a debt. You can send them away if they do.

Even if you send the debt collector away, if you owe the debt you’II still need to make arrangements to deal with it. If you ignore it, the problem will only get worse. Find out how to deal with a debt.

If you think your notice of enforcement has come from a debt collector and you’re worried about dealing with them contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Check if you owe the debt

You won't owe the debt if:

  • it belongs to someone else - for example if your name is similar to the person who owes the debt

  • you've already paid all the debt

If you're not sure if you're liable for the debt, find out how to check if you owe the money.

If you don't owe the debt

Bailiffs can't come to your home or take any action against you if you can prove you don't owe the debt.

Collect as much evidence as you can to show you're not responsible for the debt. Send this to the bailiffs with a letter explaining that you don't owe the money. You can find their address on the notice of enforcement.

Check what evidence you can send to prove you don't owe a debt.

Dealing with the debt if you owe it

You might be able to challenge your debt even if you owe it. This won't be the best option if you just want to quickly stop the bailiffs visiting you - it can take a long time.

If you can afford to pay your debt it's best to call the bailiffs straight away to pay. This will stop them visiting and you'II be able to avoid paying extra fees. You can find their number on the notice of enforcement.

Ask the bailiffs to send you a receipt when you pay - it's important to get this in case you later need to prove you've paid.

If you can't afford to pay your whole debt or anything at all you can try to negotiate with the bailiffs to pay a smaller amount or get the debt written off. Read more about negotiating your debt with bailiffs.

If bailiffs are collecting more than one debt

If different bailiffs are collecting debt, you might be able to stop some of the bailiffs from coming to your home. 

The bailiff who started collecting a debt from you first should get paid first. If the other bailiffs come to your home and take your property or money, it would still be used to pay the first bailiff. This means the other bailiffs wouldn’t get paid. 

You should contact the bailiffs who started collecting their debt after the first bailiff - tell them:

  • you have more than 1 debt

  • another bailiff started collecting their debt from you first

  • any property or money they take from you will be used to pay the bailiff who started collecting their debt first

The bailiff might agree to stop collecting the debt if they think they won't get paid. If this happens, your creditor will have to collect the debt in a different way.

Check which bailiff started collecting their debt first 

You might need to check which debt you got first - how you do this will depend on the type of debt you have. 

You should check the date of the enforcement notice if your debt is for any of the following: 

  • council tax

  • parking tickets

  • tax 

  • child maintenance

If you have another kind of debt, you can ask the court when they told the bailiff to collect it. Contact the court if your debt is for any of the following: 

  • county court judgements

  • magistrates’ court fines

  • debts collected by a high court enforcement officer

You can find your local court on GOV.UK.

If the bailiff challenges you on what you’ve told them, you should talk to an adviser.

Preparing for a bailiff visit

If you haven't been able to pay your debt or set up a payment arrangement and the bailiffs are coming to your home, you don't have to let them in.

You can stop them getting in and from taking your belongings by:

  • telling everyone in your home not to let them in

  • keeping your doors locked - they can enter through any unlocked door

  • parking or locking your car in a garage away from your home

Next steps 

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